Five takeaways on the IG’s scathing report on the FBI

The Justice Department’s inspector general on Thursday released a deeply critical assessment of the agency’s conduct during the 2016 election.

The report hammered top Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI brass for actions they took over the course of the investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe Hypocrisy in Kavanaugh case enough to set off alarms in DC Clinton: Hard to ignore 'racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says' MORE’s private email server.

Here are five takeaways from the explosive report.

It’s a tough day for the FBI

The report offers a damning assessment of the FBI’s actions during its investigation of Clinton, training its fire on former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyComey tweets: 'We always emerge stronger from hard times' Trump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe Lisa Page bombshell: FBI couldn’t prove Trump-Russia collusion before Mueller appointment MORE for decisions DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz deemed “insubordinate” and “extraordinary.”

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In particular, Horowitz criticized Comey for his unilateral decision to make a statement exonerating Clinton in July — bucking agency policy without informing Department of Justice officials, because he was concerned they would instruct him not to do it.

But the report’s findings did more than criticize Comey. It referred five separate FBI employees to the bureau’s internal disciplinary office for exchanging text messages on government devices criticizing then-candidate Donald Trump.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told reporters Thursday evening that he was “disappointed” by the report, adding that it contained “sobering lessons” for the bureau.

“Number one, the importance of trying to make sure we avoid even the appearance of bias in all of our work,” he said.

Wray also defended the integrity of the bureau as an institution, noting that it is limited to “a specific set of events back in 2016, and a small number of FBI employees connected with those events.”

“The [inspector general] report makes clear that we’ve got some work to do,” Wray said. “But let’s be clear on the scope of this report.

“Nothing in the report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole or the FBI as an institution.”

The report contains serious — and damning — findings

Perhaps the most explosive revelation in the report, and the one that seems likely to get the most attention, is a conversation over texts between two officials.

FBI lawyer Lisa Page asks Peter Strzok, the No. 2. agent on the Clinton investigation, “[Trump's] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”

“We'll stop it,” Strzok responds.

While the inspector general found no evidence that political bias affected the investigation, he said the two officials’ conduct was “antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice” and cast a “cloud” over the probe.

Even Democrats who highlighted the report’s finding that bias did not affect any of the key decisions made during the investigation acknowledged that the behavior of Strzok and Page was inappropriate.

There’s plenty for both sides to chew on

Horowitz, a political appointee under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has been characterized as a straight shooter by both Democrats and Republicans.

But Democrats and Republicans seized on different parts of his exhaustive, 500-page report — and Horowitz gave partisans in both parties plenty to chew on.

Democrats claimed the report vindicated their claims that Comey’s decision to effectively reopen the case days before the election essentially cost Clinton the election.

Republicans say the real news from the report is the bias shown by FBI agents.

The two sides agree that Comey treated his investigations into Clinton and Trump differently, but differ on who got the favorable treatment.

Democrats say Comey's silence on the FBI’s probe into Russia and the Trump campaign is unforgivable when compared to his statements about Clinton.

“Director Comey had a double-standard: He spoke publicly about the Clinton investigation while keeping secret from the American people the investigation of Donald Trump and Russia,” Reps. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsGraham to renew call for second special counsel Hillicon Valley: Sanders finds perfect target in Amazon | Cyberattacks are new fear 17 years after 9/11 | Firm outs alleged British Airways hackers | Trump to target election interference with sanctions | Apple creating portal for police data requests House Dems blast GOP for FBI, DOJ 'conspiracy theories' aimed to protect Trump MORE (D-Md.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

Republicans say Comey’s conduct shows he was far more deferential to Clinton’s team than he was with the Trump campaign.

“Voluntariness and consent in the former were replaced with search warrants, subpoenas, and other compulsory processes in the latter,” said Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyGowdy requests FEMA administrator’s travel records amid allegations Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election Gowdy: House Intel panel should release all transcripts from Russia probe MORE (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“Many of the investigators and supervisors were the same in both investigations, but the investigatory tactics were not,” he said.

The report could damage reputations

Comey, Strzok and McCabe all pushed back on Horowitz’s critical reviews of their conduct during the presidential campaign.

While Comey praised the inspector general’s office for their hard work and independent review, he noted that he disagreed with some of their conclusions.

“I respect the DOJ IG office, which is why I urged them to do this review. The conclusions are reasonable, even though I disagree with some,” Comey tweeted Thursday, after the report was released. “People of good faith can see an unprecedented situation differently. I pray no Director faces it again. Thanks to IG’s people for hard work.”

Horowitz had hammered Comey for deviating from standard FBI and DOJ procedures in handling the Clinton email probe, but he did not find evidence to suggest his key decisions in the Clinton email probe were improperly influenced by political bias, according to the report.

Strzok’s lawyers issued a far more aggressive response to the inspector general’s findings that his texts were “indicative of a biased state of mind” — and suggested that Strzok may have intentionally slow-rolled the review of emails connected to the Clinton investigation discovered after the probe was closed, which were on a laptop belonging to former congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).

“The report is critically flawed in its bizarre conclusion that the IG cannot rule out ‘with confidence’ the possibility that Special Agent Strzok’s political ‘bias’ may have been a cause of the FBI’s failure, between September 29 and October 25, 2016, to seek a second search warrant for the Anthony Weiner laptop,” Strzok's attorney, Aitan Goelman, said in a statement.

Goelman instead argues that the report shows that Strzok acted appropriately in the Clinton investigation.

The lawyers for Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeComey tweets: 'We always emerge stronger from hard times' Sununu on Obama: 'What is this damn fool doing' Bruce Ohr's efforts to secretly reshape the Trump probe started earlier in summer '16 MORE, Comey’s deputy, also claimed the report “erroneously assigns responsibility” to McCabe for delaying an FBI review of Weiner’s laptop.

“The report itself demonstrates that Mr. McCabe immediately directed relevant officials to take appropriate action on the laptop and that numerous senior FBI executives had far more information about the problems they had in examining the laptop than Mr. McCabe,” the statement reads.

There’s probably more to come

The inspector general’s office didn’t say where it had made any criminal referrals stemming from the report.

Horowitz revealed that his office is conducting an investigation into FBI employees who “improperly received benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events.”

As part of their review into the Clinton investigation, Horowitz’s team uncovered “numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization ... who were in frequent contact with reporters.”

Those unauthorized contacts, investigators say, are cause for “profound concerns” and a product of a “cultural attitude” within the bureau.

The office will issue a separate report on those investigations, according to the report.

The FBI’s New York office will be particularly closely watched. Democrats have long accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, of receiving nonpublic information about the investigation from agents there.

Horowitz is also still working on a separate investigation into the bureau’s handling of the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.